When you think of a St. Bernard, you probably picture a large brown-and-white dog carrying a barrel of whiskey around their neck. While this image might not be correct, it is not far off the mark. The St. Bernard breed was developed as a guarding breed that eventually came to be used in rescuing travelers lost in the harsh wind and snows of the Swiss Alps. These dogs are easily identified by their thick, fluffy coats as well as their large heads and drooping jowls. St. Bernards were originally bred from various livestock guarding and herding breeds like the Swiss Mountain Dog, also known as the Sennenhound. Today, however, they are more likely to be kept as a companion pet, especially for families with children. St. Bernards are very large dogs, so they need a diet that will meet their requirements for energy and nutrition. Below you will find valuable information about meeting your St. Bernard’s nutritional needs as well as some special considerations to make. You will also find recommendations for commercial dog foods for this breed.
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Nutritional Needs for St. Bernards
The St. Bernard is technically classified as a giant breed, standing an average of 26 to 28 inches tall at maturity and weighing between 120 and 180 pounds. As large as the St. Bernard is, it is definitely a gentle giant. These dogs are extremely gentle and patient with children, though they should be supervised around very small children simply due to their size. St. Bernards are not an overly active breed and they do not tolerate hot weather well. This, combined with the size of the breed, leads to a fairly short lifespan around 8 to 10 years on average. Purchasing your St. Bernard from a responsible breeder can help increase the lifespan of your dog, as can feeding him a high quality diet that provides a balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
When it comes to nutrition for dogs, protein is the most important consideration. Protein should come from high-quality, animal-based sources like fresh meat and fish to ensure maximum nutritional value. Do not automatically write of products that list some kind of meat meal (like chicken meal or turkey meal) – meat meals are actually a highly concentrated source of protein and a valuable addition to your dog’s diet. The foods you want to avoid are those made with by-product meals and low-quality fillers, especially if those ingredients are at the top of the list. Ideally, you should choose a dog food that lists at least one high-quality animal protein at the top of the list.
In addition to protein, your St. Bernard also requires fats and carbohydrates in his diet. Fats are the most concentrated source of energy you can give your dog but, especially with a large breed like the St. Bernard, you need to be careful about how much fat you are feeding your dog. Healthy fats should come from animal-based sources like chicken fat and salmon oil – plant-based fats like canola oil and ground flaxseed are generally not bad for your dog but they are less biologically valuable than fats that come from animal sources. Carbohydrates provide your dog with dietary fiber as well as various vitamins and minerals. Dogs don’t have specific requirements for carbohydrates but they should come from whole, digestible sources like oatmeal and brown rice or grain-free options like tapioca and sweet potato.
Special Considerations for St. Bernards
Not only do you need to think about what you are feeding your St. Bernard, but you also need to think about how much you are feeding him. Overfeeding a large-breed puppy can lead to excessive growth which can put too much strain on your puppy’s developing bones and joints. As a result, he may be at an increased risk for musculoskeletal problems as an adult. To keep your puppy from growing too fast, keep him on a large-breed puppy diet until he reaches about 80% of his maximum size and then switch him over to a large-breed adult formula. Large-breed formulas are made with moderate levels of protein to support lean muscle mass with lower levels of fat to avoid excessive calorie intake. These formulas are also often supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy bones and joints.
In addition to making sure that your St. Bernard doesn’t grow too quickly you should also be mindful of a condition called gastric dilation volvulus, or bloat. This condition occurs when the dog’s stomach fills with air and it could lead to decreased blood flow to vital organs as well as breathing problems. If the condition is allowed to progress the stomach could actually twist, cutting off blood supply to the stomach and increasing your dog’s risk for death. Large-breed dogs and deep-chested breeds are especially prone to developing this condition. You can help to prevent your St. Bernard from developing bloat by spreading his meals out in two or three feedings during the day and keep him from eating too fast or drinking too much water immediately after eating. You should also avoid strenuous exercise within an hour of a meal and consider using a raised food bowl for your dog.
Top Recommended Dog Foods for St. Bernards
If you need some help in finding the right food for your St. Bernard, consider one of the commercial dog food brands discussed below. Be careful when considering a breed-specific formula for your dog – do not just assume that the formula will meet your dog’s needs without evaluating the product for yourself. Consider the ingredients list to make sure that the product is of high-quality before offering it to your dog.
1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Adult Fish & Oatmeal Recipe
One of the biggest names in natural pet foods is Blue Buffalo. Blue Buffalo offers four different product lines of dry foods for dogs – the Life Protection line of natural foods, the Freedom line of grain-free foods, the Basics line of Limited Ingredient Diets, and the Wilderness line of high-protein foods. If you are looking for a formula to feed your St. Bernard, consider the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Adult Fish & Oatmeal Recipe. This formula is made with whitefish, menhaden fish meal, and oatmeal as the top three ingredients followed by barley, brown rice, and peas. Other notable ingredients include turkey meal, chicken fat, and flaxseed. Not only is this formula rich in animal proteins, but it is also supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to support your St. Bernard’s bones and joints. It also includes chelated minerals, probiotics, and a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
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2. EVO Red Meat Formula Large Bites Dry Food
The EVO pet food company is dedicated to providing cats and dogs with balanced nutrition in a diet that was inspired by the ancestral diet of wild dogs and cats. All of EVO’s products are rich in animal proteins, low in carbohydrates, and completely grain-free. If you are looking for a high-protein diet for your St. Bernard, consider the EVO Red Meat Formula Large Bites Dry Food formula. This formula is made with beef, pork meal and salmon meal as the top three ingredients followed by tapioca starch, peas, and sunflower oil. Other notable ingredients include beef fat, bison, venison, and menhaden oil. The EVO Red Meat Formula Large Bites Dry Food formula contains 78% high-quality animal ingredients as well as 22% fruits and vegetables – it contains 0% grains, gluten, and potato ingredients. Not only is this formula loaded with healthy animal proteins, but it is highly digestible and packed with healthy vitamins and minerals for your dog.
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3. Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck Formula
The Nature’s Variety pet food company prides themselves in providing high-quality, natural diets for dogs and cats. This brand offers several different product lines including the Instinct Ultimate Protein line of high-protein formulas. The Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck Formula is a great choice for your St. Bernard because it is loaded with 95% animal protein from duck, chicken and eggs plus healthy fats and oils for beautiful coat and healthy skin. This formula is packed with antioxidants as well as probiotics to support digestive health and it contains no gluten or grains. Overall, the Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck Formula is a great choice if you are in the market for a high-protein diet for your large-breed dog.
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The St. Bernard is a very large breed of dog so feeding him a healthy diet that will support his mass is incredibly important. If you need help choosing a diet for your St. Bernard, consider one of the top-rated brands reviewed above.